5 of the Most Underrated Attractions in Jakarta

5 of the Most Underrated Attractions in Jakarta

Jakarta is easily one of the most fascinating cities in Southeast Asia. There’s a lot to see and do for urbanites who enjoy convenient access to restaurants, shops, and nightlife destinations. Some of the main tourist draws are historical attractions and architectural landmarks, which include the likes of Monas Tower and Merdeka Square. There’s more to discover if you go beyond the guide book suggestions, too. Below are just some of our top picks that many other websites won’t tell you about.

Ragunan Orchid Garden

If you love flowers—and you adore orchids in particular—a good place to find them in abundance is the Ragunan Orchid Garden, located in the suburb of Ragunan on the southern end of the city. The area covers five hectares of ground in front of the Ragunan Zoo, and it is divided into 42 lots. You’ll find thousands of orchids here of every colour, species, and breed, and many are available for sale. If you’re afraid that your chosen specimen may not survive the trip back, the agriculture agency on the premises offers free instruction and training about the cultivation of orchids. They’ll likely provide you written material on how to care for your plant, and if you’re lucky, they’ll throw in some gardening equipment as well. Entrance to the orchid garden is free, which is great considering it’s a great spot for taking photos.

ITC Cempaka Mas

This wholesale center is one of the biggest shopping destinations in Jakarta, with 6000 kiosks spread across six floors selling everything from traditional clothing and fabrics to accessories, souvenirs, and more. ITC Cempaka Mas is where the locals go to seek good deals on big-ticket items such as phones, laptop computers, or DSLR cameras—stuff you probably won’t find being sold at the outdoor markets. If you view shopping as a competitive sport, this is the place for you. It’s always a good idea to haggle on the prices of some of the goods if you know the local language. After you’ve made your purchases, you can rest your feet and stop for a meal at one of the fast food restaurants in the complex.

Srengseng City Forest

Nature lovers will love this 15-hectare forest in the middle of the city, located in the district of Kembangan in West Jakarta. For a small entrance fee—less than a dollar, in fact—you can be transported to a quiet natural sanctuary that features a jogging track, a children’s playground, and an assortment of walking trails.

Fun fact: Srengseng City Forest used to be a landfill before nature took over, and now it is one of the best places to relax and unwind in the city. Surrounded by tall trees with an artificial lake in the centre, this park will make you feel very far removed from the traffic and congestion of the greater Jakarta area—at least for a few hours. The municipality of West Jakarta has also made plans to improve the available facilities in the park in order to boost tourism in the area. Thus, you may soon be able to enjoy fishing and camping on the premises, among other activities.

Ismail Marzuki Park

Known to locals as TIM—and Ismail Marzuki Park for those of us not playing the home game—Taman Ismail Marzuki is Jakarta’s arts and culture hub located in the Menteng area. The complex is home to an 800-seater performing arts hall called Graha Bhakti Budaya, as well as two exhibition galleries called Galeri Cipta II and Galeri Cipta III, which feature sculptures, and paintings, and other works of fine arts. TIM is also home to Teater Halaman, an open-air auditorium; Teater Jakarta, a performing arts studio where theatrical shows, musical performance, and poetry readings can be staged; and Kineforum, a 45-seat movie theatre managed by the Jakarta Arts Council.

The plaza that serves as TIM’s courtyard can also be used for outdoor performances and can accommodate an audience of up to 2,500 spectators. The Jakarta Planetarium and Observatory is also part of TIM and holds the distinction of being the oldest planetarium among the three that can be found in Indonesia. For a heavy dose of culture or just taking in a show while you’re in town, head over here. You’re sure to find a live performance or a film screening being held here.

Thousand Islands

Officially known as Kepulauan Seribu, the Thousand Islands are technically still part of Jakarta. It is located north of the mainland and an hour’s boat ride away from Ancol Port. Actually comprising just 342 islands, Kepulaun Seribu has 36 islands that may be used for recreation, though only 13 of them have been fully developed. Two of these are historical parks while the other 11 have been developed into resort destinations.

Try Putri Island for a diverse array of water attractions, including a water slide that takes you right down into the ocean, or an underwater walk that lets you see environment below the surface through a watertight tunnel that has been built specifically for viewing purposes. You can also board a submarine with a glass bottom to explore the depths of the sea and get really up close and personal with area’s local marine denizens. On other islands, you’ll be able to enjoy the usual resort attractions—swimming, snorkelling, scuba diving, and the like—all while being able to retire to a gorgeous beach-view hotel room at the end of the day.

These are just some of the most underrated attractions that you can enjoy in Jakarta. The next time you’re in the Big Durian, consider forgoing the well-traversed tourist destinations and head over to these hidden gems instead.

Clare Louise